Teaching from the trenches

Another wonderful week thus far in school-ville.  For those who know me, I’m being sarcastic.  For the non-teacher and non-male readers, compare this time of year and last few weeks of teaching to the last few weeks of pregnancy.  You know the end is in sight, but it’s like eight months then a year. At least there is a due date which is real, not approximate.

There is one student in the 7th grade boys class who should have been expelled months ago.  I was told he was going to be removed from the school.  He never was. A bad home situation and at-risk behavior sums it up.  I can feel bad for him but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t behave himself or at the very least, not bully others.

On Sunday, while the rest of the class was trying to take a test, he was going around flicking a lighter behind students’ heads, taking pencil cases and backpacks and flinging them around the room, and even took a chair and put it on top of a tall cabinet so that the legs almost got stuck between the wall and cabinet and couldn’t get the chair down.  The boy pays no heed to me. He ignores me completely, even a simple request. The principal, assistant principal, and homeroom teacher were not in the building.  The only hope for help was the security guard who said “That class has a lot of difficult students.” (and there are only eight of them). I think he called the principal for advice and dispatched the av bait (“house father” aka custodian/ building maintenance guy) who has a rapport with him to occupy him so he wouldn’t come to the second lesson of the two I had to teach them.

As I mentioned in one of my last teacher in the trenches posts, last week the times of the morning meal break and lunch breaks were changed.  It is causing quite the balagan.  People are creatures of habit and the students’ stomachs are programmed to eat at a certain time.  They want to eat when it’s not time to eat.  Not only that, the bell schedule hasn’t been reset, so it is a constant checking of your watch or cell phone.  There aren’t clocks in the classroom, so I am constantly looking at my phone (the glass face of my watch broke upon having an encounter with a cement floor). Both the students and staff want the old schedule back.  The classic in the car “Are we there yet” is instead “Is it time to eat yet?” I don’t know whose great idea this was.  Yes, sarcasm again.

What else…my 5/6 grade boys class also has a new door like the new door that was putting put up the other day in the 7th grade girls class. However, the handle of this door needs a screw so it kept coming off and clanking to the ground.  At one point, we were trapped in the room because the boys kept potchking with the handle instead of leaving it alone.  So much for having a new door…with or without a handle. And yes, they should have been seated not playing with the door.  I even found a cool text about their favorite soccer player to read and I still couldn’t engage them in learning.

Today in my 5/6 grade girls class I tried to get them to learn the words ‘city’ and ‘country’.  To my dismay their basic knowledge geography is shockingly non-existent so the categorizing activity was a flop and I became a geography teacher.  PARIS is a CITY in the COUNTRY of FRANCE.  LONDON is a CITY in the COUNTRY of ENGLAND.  Paris and London are not countries.  USA=The United States of America.  The capital is Washington D.C.  ITALY is a COUNTRY.  I did some geography with my 7th grade girls and one thought Italy was in Canada.  The language in Mexico is Spanish, not Mexican. I kid you not.  Either I’m a geography snob or kids today are clueless.

I did have one break-through today.  ‘Threat’ is too strong a word, but I had ammunition.  Last night was conferences.  I didn’t attend, but that’s another story why.  Like..”Would someone care to inform me of them with a date and time?”  Most of this 7th grade boys class is doing pathetic because they won’t do any work and their grades reflected it.  I had once sent a What’s App to the parents of my 5/6 boys class telling them of an upcoming test.  I think only one replied with a thank you and nobody else said a word or acknowledged the message, but apparently they told the homeroom teacher at conferences they really appreciated the heads up.  I’ve emailed and SMSed the 7th grade boys parents but have had no involvement.

With this tidbit of information regarding What’s App, I stormed in the class today saying “Your grades and behavior need improvement.”  I am going to What’s App your parents  with your participation and behavior from today’s lesson.  Let’s just say I had nobody playing soccer in class, I saw a few notebooks on the desks, and Student X only got out of his seat six times.  I stress ‘only’, as this is an improvement. Student Y with the lighter either cut class or went home early because he wasn’t present, so that was also good.

As much as I can’t wait for this school year to end, it is always bittersweet.  I want the finish line, but then I’m finished and there is the let down when it’s over.  It’s happened every year for the twenty-four years I’ve been teaching.  It’s the change of schedule, the change of routine, the victories, the could-have-beens.  Ending are sad.  I invest a lot in my students. I always hope for the best for them.

There was one beacon of hope that started to shine like a lighthouse on a cloudy sea.  A kindred soul (aka another English teacher) went over the calendar for the last few weeks with an explanation and expectations of what it all meant.  The calendar is all in Hebrew, so I don’t yet comprehend 100% of what I read. One of the things she told me as that during the last calendar week of school, the last two lessons of the day will be sport day or some other fun activity.  Guess which class I’m getting out of teaching then.  Yep..those boys.  Can’t you hear me boo-hooing? The thought of it is like getting an unexpected day off. While not a day, two class periods total 90 minutes. Woo-hoo!!!

I have Tuesday and Wednesday get through for the remainder of this week, so technically today was ‘hump day’ because I’ve finished 50% of the week.

Teaching isn’t all so bad, it’s just the behavior and discipline that get in the way.  One on one, they are all good kids.  It’s just as a class or group of them together when things go not according to a Norman Rockwell painting of a school room.

A few more weeks in the trenches.  To be continued…

Thanks for reading.

Karen, T.K.K.

PS: Drawing credit goes to a student in the 7th grade girls class. We were doing adjective + noun agreement.  They had to sketch and label a picture and she wrote ‘nice teacher’. Awww. Sniff

 

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